I hesitate to write anything about the EU referendum because of the deep passions involved. It is tragic to see the divisions that have struck between friends and family members.
Can it be that those we thought close to us were not what we thought at all?
We know ourselves to be kind, caring, generous and loving people; so those who voted differently must be ruthless, uncaring, mean and hateful, mustn’t they? And hypocritical too, pretending to be like us when they’re not at all.
Or maybe that’s not it. Perhaps we’re intelligent, well-read and thoughtful, whereas they are, well, stupid and short-sighted.
There were only two choices in the referendum, but the issues involved were complex and very different in character. What it boiled down to was what we considered the most important issues.
When my wife and I clean up the house, she will do certain things first, and I will do others. There is a risk, given time constraints, that some things will remain undone: she will be more worried about some things, and I will be more worried about others.
People are remarkably different. They are not simply good or simply bad. We all have our faults, but they cannot be explained simply by our age or our social status.
We over-simplify. After the result of the vote was known I heard several people refer to our “leaving Europe”, which is not true at all. The country has voted by a smallish majority to leave a political organisation that some see as a kind of Garden of Eden and others as basically corrupt. The truth is in between, but how much weight do you put on each side?
Tricky. The real problem, however, is different. It is that we think we can read people’s minds. “I know what you’re thinking” may not be what we actually say, but it is what we believe.
We are unkind to our friends because we think we know why they voted that way. But we don’t, unless they tell us. And do we really want them to tell us? Isn’t it obvious that our vote was right?
Happily, with the referendum now a week behind us, many have been able to get a grip, stand back and see things a bit more clearly. Some, sadly, have not. Life is more difficult for many, and now is a time for unity, peace and love to reassert themselves. We may not know what our friends are thinking, but let’s assume it’s something good. Something loving. Something caring. You know – like they used to be. Before.